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Business Principles

CHICAGO AUTOMOBILE TRADE ASSOCIATION MEMBERS AGREE TO:

  • Promote and maintain honesty and dependability in our business operations and to avoid deception and fraud.
  • Employ truth and accuracy in our advertising and selling of automotive products.
  • Stand by any guarantee given with the sale and service of motor vehicles.
  • Strive constantly to improve our business methods and ethics and to maintain fair competition to the end that the public will be better served.
  • Refrain from the performance of any act which would be injurious or detrimental to the automobile- retailing industry or contrary to the public interest

Letter from 2020-21 Chairman, Kevin Keefe

Kevin_Keefe_2013
2020-21 CATA Chairman and 2022 Chicago Auto Show Co-Chairman Kevin Keefe
DEAR FELLOW CATA MEMBER:
 
Who likes rollercoaster rides?

Since my term as your association chairman began in June 2020, we've witnessed a pandemic virus that has killed millions worldwide, briefly reducing sales and service as populations shuttered; then record sales as even people who never owned a car wanted to buy one; and, lately, declining sales because of choked inventories.

But dealers, as usual, showed themselves to be capable of adapting to the times. When customers stopped going to the dealership, dealers figured out how to take their stores to the customers, with test drives and sales that originated at people's homes and pick-up/drop-off protocol for

vehicle servicing.

The pandemic affected all businesses in myriad ways. Member calls to the association's employee relations counsel, Littler Mendelson, focused on questions about operating amid COVID, and the call volume reached highs in which the firm's monthly bills to the CATA equaled the full amount raised annually from membership dues. And with a 2021 Chicago Auto Show far from certain, CATA directors in late 2020 voted to increase the annual dues to $800. It marked the first dues increase in about 25 years.

DriveChicago.com - on which all CATA dealers and only CATA dealers appear free - demonstrates the great value it provides to CATA dealers. The association's web portal in the past year was able to redirect upwards of 100,000 visitors from its portal to dealer sites. Dealers no doubt spend at least $800 every month to appear on similar automotive shopping portals.

The association also provides its members with timely industry news via the biweekly CATA Bulletin. It is sent via email, typically every other Friday morning, and other urgent informational messages are sent as needed.

To be added to the distribution list, send email addresses to ehiggins@ drivechicago.com.

Add to that free meeting space at the association headquarters, educational CATA seminars, longstanding relationships with government and watchdog groups, and the association's popular annual member golf outing.

And don't forget the stack of auto show tickets that all members receive each year, tickets which themselves are worth more than $800, and it is plain that, even after the increase, the CATA's dues more than pay for themselves.

All Illinois dealers and their technicians scored a victory in 2021 with the passage of legislation that requires OEMs to pay no less for the diagnosis and performance of work on vehicles under warranty than what is charged to retail customers for the same work. The move could attract new technicians to the state's dealerships. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2022.

Other legislation the CATA advanced would abolish the $10,000 limit on the trade-in credit allowances for first division vehicles, a limit that took effect in 2020. Senate Bill 58 passed the state's General Assembly, but as of this writing, it has not been addressed by the governor. The bill aims

to be revenue-neutral, with the state instead getting funding, in part, by increasing the sales tax charged in private vehicle sales.

Legislation which became law July 26 extends the drive-away permit limit from 30 days to 90 days. The change, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2022, will help dealers and consumers in titling and registering vehicles.

On an unhappy note, unionized technicians at 56 area dealerships with Local 701 workers voted Aug. 1 to strike after rejecting an offer from dealers of a new collective bargaining agreement. The previous agreement had expired hours earlier. At this Aug. 2 writing, it is hoped that the situation will be resolved quickly.

The CATA and other dealer entities were forced in 2020 to sue the Illinois secretary of state's office to keep electric truck manufacturer Rivian from gaining a dealer license to sell directly to consumers. Gov. Pritzker has supported that license issuance in order to create manufacturing jobs at the company's factory in Bloomington.

To address the increasing shortage of qualified, trained automotive technicians seeking jobs at dealerships, the CATA launched an educational program in 2020 just before the pandemic's arrival. The partnership began as a pilot program with south suburban Bremen High School District 228, with the goal of connecting CATA dealerships with high school students interested in automotive careers. The ongoing vision is to continue to roll the program out region-wide to help bridge the connection between local schools and CATA dealerships.

The consolidated inventories of all CATA dealerships appear on DriveChicago.com. As is evident on most of our lots, microchip shortages have depleted inventories, and that is reflected in the inventory count of DriveChicago. For instance, the number of vehicles on the portal in July 2021 stood at 60,000, down from 120,000 a year earlier.

With the pandemic closing McCormick Place for many months, officials looked for alternate dates for the Chicago Auto Show and settled on a five-day special edition in July 2021 that mixed a traditional show floor indoors and a street fest outdoors. Attendees were excited to celebrate warm temperatures the show had never experienced, and manufacturers said more than one-third of attendees signed up for the indoor and outdoor rides, far exceeding most of the manufacturers' show goals.

The average consumer's visit (show dwell time) was 6 hours 5 minutes - almost 90 minutes longer than in 2020 and the longest dwell time ever measured by Foresight Research, which conducted a post-show survey.

Area dealerships have embraced the annual Barbecue for the Troops since it began in 2013, and a total $950,000 has been raised for the USO of Illinois. Even in the midst of the pandemic, when fundraising was reduced to online-only, about 60 dealers rallied in October 2020 to raise nearly $54,000 for the agency. The Barbecue for the Troops initiative traditionally is held each July and features large community festivals with patriotic ceremonies. The funds raised enable the USO of Illinois to lend support to more than 350,000 Illinois service members and their families on an annual basis.

Even in a year so disrupted by the coronavirus, Chicagoland Dealers Care was able to match the contributions by dealers to three area nonprofits, writing $1,500 checks to Children at the Crossroads, in Chicago; to The Young Entrepreneurs Academy, with a chapter in Chicago; and to the Do it Stevie's Way Foundation, which was established after Steven Bajenski of Minooka, who grew up with cardiovascular challenges, died about 10 years ago while in high school. The Chicagoland Dealers Care program will match up to $1,500 the donations that member dealers give to charities in the Chicago area and northwest Indiana.

Dealer advertising continues to be scrutinized, both by officials and by the dealer community. The Better Business Bureau hosted a May webinar to review the latest sticking points seen in dealer ads by the BBB. Many of the infractions they cited came to their attention by dealers reviewing their competitors' ads.

My thanks to Thomas F. Shirey for more than eight years' service on the CATA board of directors. He resigned his position in December 2020 upon selling his Cadillac dealership in Oak Lawn and retiring.

With COVID restrictions seemingly dissolving by the hour, this might seem like a distant memory, but as recently as early 2021, many of us were still living life via Zoom. So at a time when in-person meetings and gatherings in general were impossible, the association's board decided to suspend the usual late-spring board of director elections and extend their own terms by one year.

It's been that kind of year.

Sincerely,

Kevin Keefe
2020-2021 Chairman